The Los Angeles Police Department has been at the forefront of developing innovative and effective field tactics since the early 1950s. Through extensive research and a commitment to excellence, the Department designed innovative tactics and accompanied these with extensive training. The Department’s legacy is that other police agencies worldwide have emulated these practices. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.
In this tradition, and in adherence to our “best practices” philosophy, we constantly monitor, evaluate, update, and improve our tactics. As police officers,we are granted the power to use force in response to a suspect’s action. However, this force must be reasonable and measured to fit the situation. The Department critically evaluates all uses of force. The Use of Force Review Board,in particular, examines all categorical uses of force, which include in-custody deaths. The recommendations of the Use of Force Board are then forwarded to my office and to the Police Commission.
In reviewing some recent in-custody deaths, it is apparent that some officers and supervisors need to be reminded of the established Department protocols for using the Hobble restraint or prevention of positional asphyxia. As you have been instructed, positional asphyxia is the restriction of breathing caused by the physical position or placement of a person. The issue is further complicated because incidents involving its occurrence often require the use of the Hobble restraint device.
While the suspects who were restrained were often under the influence of drugs or had other medical issues, we must follow our established protocols to enhance the person’s chance of survival and reduce our liability. The occurrence of positional asphyxia is of great concern because the Department has an approved procedure for using the Hobble device. The procedure dictates that the suspect be placed in an upright seated position, as positional asphyxia usually occurs when a suspect is placed laying down on their stomach.
The proper use of the Hobble device is outlined in Training Bulletin, Volume35, Issue 10, published in June 2003.Titled, “Restraining Procedures and Devices,” there is a section devoted entirely to the Hobble. Restating the need of keeping the arrestee upright, the bulletin repeatedly states that the Hobbled individual must be continuously monitored.
I am keenly aware of the lengths that a suspect may go to—the kicking, fighting and resisting—to keep from being taken into custody. I’m also aware that a number of the individuals who require restraining are under the influence of illegal narcotics. However,once the suspect is controlled, that person needs to be placed in an upright position and continuously monitored for signs of medical distress. Additionally, if a sergeant is at scene, it is my expectation that the supervisor will exert command and control over that situation, including making sure proper procedures are followed regarding suspects who are restrained with a Hobble.
Aside from keeping the Police Commission and command staff updated on issues such as this, the Use of Force Review Division is also working on the “Use of Force Source book,” which is expected to be available in a few months. The sourcebook was developed to provide guidance to Department personnel about use of force issues and will be a “living document,”constantly updated to reflect the most current information. It will be made available over the Department LAN homepage. As a single source document, this publication will be an assemblage of Department Manual Sections, Special Orders, Notices,Training Bulletins, and Consent Decree paragraphs that relate to the use of force.
Also published by the Use of Force Review Division, and currently available on the LAN homepage, is the new Tactical Operations or “TacOps” Newsletter. This newsletter was designed by the Tactics Training Review Committee that is made up of Department experts in tactics, use of force,training and field operations. It will provide you with timely and relevant information to achieve peak performance during tactical situations. My goalhere is simple. I want to provide you with the best training and information possible so that you can do your job safely. I encourage you to discuss the information contained in the“Tac Ops” newsletter with your partner and fellow officers.
Just as I am committed to making the Department the leader in law enforcement technology, I am equally committed to maintaining our position as the leader in law enforcement tactics. Through constant review, and with these two new Department publications, the LAPD is maintaining its legacy.